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Gender + Sexuality

How Social Conservatives Plan to Take Over Alberta Schools

Organizers target sex education, Pride events and teachers’ unions in a MAGA-style bid to control education.

David Climenhaga 29 Aug 2023Alberta Politics

David J. Climenhaga is an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet and trade union communicator. He blogs at AlbertaPolitics.ca. Follow him on Twitter at @djclimenhaga.

There’s plenty of chatter on social media about the plan by the United Conservative Party’s powerful and secretive Take Back Alberta faction to stealthily take over the province’s school boards in the next round of elections and set the stage for indoctrinating children with social conservative ideology.

As usual, though, conservative mainstream media (which is the only kind we have in Alberta) seems to be largely ignoring the story. This is most likely the result of understaffing and pitiful resources devoted to journalism as opposed to actual malice, but who knows for sure?

Meanwhile, another group, Parents for Choice in Education, is rolling out its strategy for supporters to capture school boards.

Parents for Choice in Education describes itself as a “non-sectarian, not-for-profit advocacy organization” that is “dedicated to informing, equipping and mobilizing citizens toward an excellent, quality-oriented, choice-driven education system which recognizes parental authority.”

That sounds nice, but it is not really a full description of the organization and its goals. Based on its statements in media and positions taken on social issues, it is fair to conclude that PCE wants full public funding for private and religious education, is social conservative in orientation and is hostile to the idea of students’ rights, LGBTQ+ rights, in-school sex education and teachers’ unions.

Nowhere is it said there’s a formal connection between Take Back Alberta and Parents for Choice in Education. But it can be predicted with confidence that if anyone were to draw a Venn diagram of the two groups, there would be considerable overlap. When it comes to gender issues, student rights, free collective bargaining for teachers and the instruction of history, it is fair to say they sing from the same hymn book.

In a series of columns published in the far-right Western Standard online publication, Parents for Choice in Education has railed against "progressive" sex teaching, Pride events, sexual orientation and gender identity policies, critical race theory, teachers’ unions, school gay-straight alliances and so on.

In its summer newsletter, Parents for Choice in Education informed its supporters that it has already held its “first training session for people looking to get involved in the next School Board Elections.”

“In response to widely felt concerns that our school boards have been overtaken by radical activists, we have created workshops on how to run for school board trustee,” the newsletter boasts. “We started running these workshops during the last school board elections, with impressive success. We’ve already run the first one for the next election season — 18 people came out in Lloydminster!”

“We’re continuing our election training workshops. They’re pitched both at prospective candidates and ordinary Albertans who want to learn how to get good people into office,” the newsletter continues.

Importantly, it goes on: “We’re hoping to convince the government to pass a Parental Rights Act, similar to the policy recently implemented in Saskatchewan. Our Executive Director had a positive conversation with the Minister of Education on the subject in a recent meeting.”

That is, they want an Alberta version of the controversial and possibly unconstitutional policies introduced by the conservative governments led by premiers Blaine Higgs in New Brunswick and Scott Moe in Saskatchewan that force schools to expose children who wish to change their names or pronouns to their parents or guardians, and sometimes to their fellow students.

Given the newsletter’s claims, it would be worthwhile knowing what Alberta Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides’ position truly is on this highly controversial issue.

The Parents for Choice in Education newsletter also advises its supporters to “convince more and more school boards to drop their secrecy policies” — secrecy, in this context being code for confidentiality about students’ choices about their names, gender identity, sexuality, and so on.

If you’re concerned about the MAGA assault on education, whether it comes from Take Back Alberta or other social-conservative groups, fasten your seatbelts, because it’s coming to Alberta in the next provincewide municipal election when school board candidates’ names will also be on the ballot.

And like the warning on your car’s wing mirror, Oct. 20, 2025, is closer than it looks. And there may be byelections before then.

So be ready to query all candidates about their connections to Take Back Alberta and Parents for Choice in Education, as well as their views on these specific issues.

Far-right ideologically motivated candidates know they are out of tune with what most Albertans think and want for their children. So just as Take Back Alberta is doing with its takeover of the United Conservative Party, and the anti-choice radicals opposed to women’s reproductive rights did to infiltrate the UCP and Conservative Party of Canada legislative and parliamentary caucuses, many will try to act covertly and hide their beliefs and connections.

In such circumstances, you can and should take no answer from candidates as an obvious answer.  [Tyee]

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